Dream Home Is Actually A Meth House

A young couple thought they got a great deal, $190,000 for a two-story house in the historic district of Bristol Borough, PA with a yard and plenty of space. After they moved in, the headaches, sore throats and difficulty breathing started. Three weeks later, one of their new neighbors told them something the seller had neglected to mention: their new home used to be a meth house.

Searching the DEA website confirmed this, as did an independent lab test that showed low levels of residual methamphetamine.

The two have had to clean and scrub all their possessions and put them in storage, or get rid of them. They are living with their parents while trying to raise enough money to get the place professionally cleaned, which will cost them $25,000.

In PA, there’s no law requiring the seller to disclose that the property used to be a drug facility. The couple did pay for home inspections prior to the sale, but they don’t cover “checking to see if the house was a meth den.”

The two are trying to get the word out on their blog and also help others avoid their same calamity. A recent post included these warning signs of a potential meth lab

* Unusual, strong odors (like cat urine, ether, ammonia, acetone or other chemicals).
* Renters who pay their landlords in cash. (Most drug dealers trade exclusively in cash.)
* Lots of traffic – people coming and going at unusual times. There may be little traffic during the day, but at night the activity increases dramatically.
* Excessive trash including large amounts of items such as: antifreeze containers, lantern fuel cans, red chemically stained coffee filters, drain cleaner and duct tape.
* Unusual amounts of clear glass containers being brought into the home.
* Windows blacked out or covered by aluminum foil, plywood, sheets, blankets, etc.
* Secretive / protective area surrounding the residence (like video cameras, alarm systems, guard dogs, reinforced doors, electrified fencing).
* Persons exiting the structure to smoke
* Little traffic during the day, but high traffic at late hours; including different vehicles arriving and staying for short periods of time.
* Little or no mail, furniture, visible trash and no newspaper delivery.

Couple’s first home is a meth house [CNN] (Thanks to Stephen!)
Our Meth House [couple’s blog]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Daverson says:

    Are the “sore threats” from angry methheads demanding to know where their supplier has gone?

  2. humphrmi says:

    Another sign that your new home was a meth lab – it shows up on this list.

    It was mentioned in the story, although unfortunately they didn’t find that site until after they bought the house.

    • colorisnteverything says:

      I just checked that and looked for two houses near my childhood home (where my parents still live) that I know were meth labs and neither were on there, so there is a good chance that this one wasn’t either.

      • Kitten Mittens says:

        RTFA – their house was on the list.

        However, in the metro-Atlanta area there appears to be 5-10 houses on the list. That seems insanely small for the area. I’m guessing a lot of houses don’t end up on the registry.

    • Grenwulf says:

      Wondered if the house across the street had been one… I know it was, but it isn’t on this list.

      Mine is, though…sheesh

    • Smultronstallet says:

      According to this list, the Walmart and Target in Champaign, IL are both clandestine laboratories. I am very intrigued by this…

    • Verdant Pine Trees says:

      For sure a lot of houses don’t get on this list… I checked Oregon, and not a ONE on the list is from Clatsop county, where a natal nurse told us she had never seen so many kids born addicted to meth.

  3. wonderkitty now has two dogs says:

    This is so sad. I know I’d want to find out who knew about it and didn’t tell me. Then I would call a news station and hope the end result was someone or some company losing everything they had. I know it’s not helpful, but god… this stuff is horrible.

    • Wombatish says:

      I heard something about legislation to tear down meth homes if they’re seized/found.

      Not sure if it was a specific state or what but it almost seems necessary. Yes it will create a bit of a hassle with the mortgage but even professionally cleaned up these homes are still seriously tainted – in Alaska for example, they have to stay on the state list for five years AFTER they’re cleaned up, just because they still have health risks, especially for those who are at an increased risk, even if they are minor for most people.

      Especially if they’re going to sit empty and lower property values, it almost seems better to save the cleanup costs and just tear them down.

      • Wombatish says:

        Or at least make pro-active disclosure a 100% requirement, not just based on full seizure/state by state.

        And make professional clean-up a pre-sale requirement.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        I think tearing down would be ideal but in many areas, there would be no money to do so, and a very low likelihood that the property would be seized.

        My town has in the ballpark of 500 structures on the city’s demolition list and a budget that can tear down about 50 a year. It’s definitely not a good situation.

      • Cameraman says:

        LOL @ “meth homes” It’s not a meth *house*, it’s a meth *home*.

  4. snowtires says:

    I find the term ‘dream house’ to be highly suspect. Anyone who refers to a house in Bristol as a ‘dream house’ is probably a meth dealer, themself.

  5. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    Well, while they might not have to disclose it used to be a Meth house, don’t they have to make sure no hazardous conditions exist?

    On the plus side, I’m sure the cleaning went really quick with all that meth. Mmmmmm, meth!

    • trentblase says:

      I *think* they only have to tell you if you ask (although they do have to tell you about lead paint without asking). Because a lie (as opposed to an omission) by the seller can void the contract, it makes sense for people to ask a *lot* of questions when buying a house… including “are there any known hazards?”

      • Kitten Mittens says:

        Hazards are part of the seller’s disclosures. I’m sure it was not disclosed. The problem/issue will be whether or not the state laws consider it to be a hazard. Because the levels were at 0.03 and not 0.05, it might not be considered a hazard. Which should be utter BS.

        Note to self: always ask for two additional disclosures – (1) was there ever any illegal activity on the premises, (2) was there ever any drug-related activity on the premises?

    • JennQPublic says:

      Thanks, that video is brilliant.

  6. Bsamm09 says:

    “People exiting the structure to smoke” — I’ve smoked for years and never smoked in my house or room. I think it is disgusting. Can’t believe people smoke in their houses.

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      I can’t believe people smoke at all!
      ;^) See what I did there?

      • megafly says:

        I can’t believe people still complain about smoking. We’re trying to save Social Security here!! The fewer of us that live to 67 the better all we all are!!

    • Costner says:

      Smoking indoors is disgusting, but smoking itself is not?

      I have a hard time with the idea that yellow stains on your ceilings and drapes is disgusting, but cancer laden lungs, nicotene stained fingers, and yellow teeth (and the breath that matches them) are perfectly acceptable.

    • lostalaska says:

      Yeah I was looking through the list and was like damn, I’m hitting on a quite a few of those. I only smoke outside, I have security camera’s under the eves of my house coving the sides, back yard and front door. I used to have a dog and so I had a fenced in front yard. I’d have friends come by a few times a week in the evenings to play some games or just hang out so most of my “traffic” was in the evenings. I have curtains up and in the back of the house where the bedrooms are they are normally all closed as they work as insulators in the winter and keep out the 18 hours of daylight in the summers in Alaska. I do a lot of hardware and electronics hacking so I’ve had chemicals for doing plating and chemical etching. Also I do bring a lot of glass containers into my house although they are usually in the six or twelve pack variety.

      Wow I’m hitting around 70% of stuff on that list.

  7. MikeF74 says:

    Since it’s probably law enforcement who is looking to profit from the sale of these seized properties, I doubt any disclosure laws will be passed.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      RTFA – it wasn’t a seized property. They bought the house through the estate of one of the brothers who owned the house. The DEA took items from the house in the past and the address made it to a registry, but the DEA did not seize the home, and there is no record of anyone being charged for producing drugs in the home.

      • MikeF74 says:

        My comment was about getting laws passed, not this particular case. When the police stand to be “hurt” by a law, that law has much less chance of passing.

        • jebarringer says:

          You said “Since it’s probably law enforcement who is looking to profit from the sale of these seized properties”, when in this case it was definitely NOT law enforcement looking to profit. RTFA upheld.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      You’ve been RTFA’d, courtesy of pecan.

    • Wombatish says:

      There are also disclosure laws in many states, outlined somewhat here: https://lawlib.wlu.edu/works/427-1.pdf

      They may not be as strict as they could/should be, but just because PA doesn’t have laws doesn’t mean the laws don’t exist anywhere.

  8. sjgarg says:

    here’s a related issue reported by CBC’s marketplace about other people who went through similar experiences with buying homes that used to be grow-ops and how home inspectors failed to notice this.


  9. Andy S. says:

    Seriously, “no newspaper delivery” is a sign of a meth lab? Surely the print news media will jump all over this in a last-ditch attempt to save their dying industry:

    “Subscribe to the Day-Old News Gazette, or your neighbors will think you’re cooking meth!”

  10. dulcinea47 says:

    Wow, I don’t get a newspaper and I go outside to smoke. I must live in a meth house!

    • Ilovegnomes says:

      Yeah, some of these signs are a little too vague.

      -Cat urine could just mean a crazy cat lady lived there.
      -Renters who pay their landlord in cash. Yeah, I wouldn’t choose to do this but I could see that maybe people get fed up with checks not getting there on time, people stealing money orders out of the mail, etc. Hand your landlord cash, they give you a receipt, cut out the element of potentially getting ripped off in the process of paying your rent.
      -Lots of traffic. Well it depends on who lives there. We had a bunch of college students living across the street. They threw parties, I’m sure they had late night study sessions, etc. Doesn’t mean that they had a meth lab.
      – Do beer bottles count as clear glass?
      -Blackened windows could mean that someone has a small kid who needs it dark for nap time or the person works graveyard shift.
      -Most modern neighborhoods have video, fencing and dogs to protect their homes. I live .. in your average suburb and we’re not exempt from crime so we have to protect ourselves somehow because the police can’t be everywhere at once.
      -People exiting to smoke. That’s roughly half of my neighborhood.
      -Little or no mail – Dear Meth dealers… how do you get little to no junk mail? I’ve been begging my postmaster general to stop dropping tons of ads in my mailbox everyday and they won’t help.
      -Visible trash.. neighborhood kids like to litter on the way home from school.
      – No newspaper delivery. That’s more than half of my neighborhood.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        But what are the chances a home has nearly all these signs and all of them have innocuous exokanations?


      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        We’ve had two meth houses busted in our neighborhood. It really isn’t just one or two factors that indicate a meth house, it’s the combination of several.

        In my neck of the woods, the biggest tell tale signs of one is the smell of cat urine and dryer sheets, as well as blackened windows and generally odd behavior. Paying in cash is almost a prerequisite but nobody really knows when this happens until the DEA gets involved.

        They also don’t pay month-to-month in cash, they typically pre-pay for the year. When the operation is stopped by the police, the dealers/producers move on to another house (often with the same landlord), and again pre-pay. The landlords make out like bandits the whole time.

  11. Sam Glover says:

    It may be worth looking into the housing inspector’s insurance coverage. In Minnesota, at least, when you discover something the inspector probably should have, but missed, you can often recover the cost of fixing it, if not the loss in value.

  12. shepd says:

    I must make meth:

    * Unusual, strong odors (like cat urine, ether, ammonia, acetone or other chemicals). [wife is lazy at cleaning the cat box]
    * Renters who pay their landlords in cash. (Most drug dealers trade exclusively in cash.) [I owned a store and it was easier to take $800 from the till then it was to write a cheque, since the till money was going to the bank with me anyways]
    * Lots of traffic – people coming and going at unusual times. There may be little traffic during the day, but at night the activity increases dramatically. [I worked late all the time because I owned a store]
    * Excessive trash including large amounts of items such as: antifreeze containers, lantern fuel cans, red chemically stained coffee filters, drain cleaner and duct tape. [None of those specific items, but there was no recycling at the dump I was renting at, and I was lazy eating nothing but prepackaged food…]
    * Windows blacked out or covered by aluminum foil, plywood, sheets, blankets, etc. [I owned a business and so couldn’t afford much else, also the window air-conditioner wouldn’t fit without plywood]
    * Secretive / protective area surrounding the residence (like video cameras, alarm systems, guard dogs, reinforced doors, electrified fencing). [Nothing that excessive, but cameras pointing out the windows to monitor the crazies, yes]
    * Persons exiting the structure to smoke [No smoking in my place, you do that outside or you go to your own place]
    * Little or no mail, furniture, visible trash and no newspaper delivery [I didn’t need that crap/was lazy]

    So, looks like because I owned a business, was cheap and lazy (at home) I ran a meth lab. What a worthless list, as usual.

    • catskyfire says:

      Remember that the list is some potential signs, not everything.

      Ammonia smell: It would take more than a few cats to get the full effect. (Someone who actually cleans the box periodically wouldn’t be a tip of.)

      Paying in cash: It is rare. Most folks want the cashed check/money order as proof of payment, rather than the hassle of getting a receipt from landlord.

      Lots of traffic at unusual time: Did you have a lot of brief visitors at 3 am?

      Excessive Trash containing those items: Takeout containers do not equal meth. A lot of antifreeze containers might.

      Windows blacked: Were all your windows covered? Or just a bedroom?

    • donovanr says:

      In my neighbourhood any one of the above would be out of place (including the newspapers). I am glad I don’t live next door to you. I could probably walk up and down my street every day for a month and not see one of these signs.

    • qwickone says:

      Also, these are indications that there MIGHT be a meth lab there. All of those signs reasonably suggest your house is a meth lab. Actual inspection/talking to you would clear that up, which is what should be the next step after you figure out you have a potential meth lab.

      • shepd says:

        No, the police have no business in my place ever without a warrant, period. My home is my castle. And you shouldn’t be able to get a warrant because I’m a lazy business owner.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      I see lists like that it reminds of some of the anti communist rhetoric/cold war propaganda from the 1950s. Your government puts lists out like that for a reason. To encourage the rats to come out.

    • endless says:

      you own a store….. IS IT A METH STORE?!?!?

  13. meternx01 says:

    Sounds like my neighbors.. Im going over to investigate tonight…

  14. Tim says:

    Even if it’s not illegal per se to sell the house without telling someone, they still might be able to sue for the costs of cleaning everything.

    And if the people selling the house sign any sort of guarantee as to its condition, they would also warrant damages.

  15. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Sadly, this state is one of the states without disclosures for meth labs. Colorado is one of the most stringent of states fo home disclosures. Had this couple lived in Colorado, they could have had the home sale reversed and received from the original owner monetary compensation for any money lost as part of the sale. Not sure on the ability to sue for fraud in this case.

  16. Rose says:

    The couple should sue, both to raise the money and to set a precedent.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Suing does nothing if the seller was not obligated to disclose this information, which it was not.

      To evoke change, change your state law.

  17. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    Dream home comes with income opportunities and an established customer base. Why are they complaining?


  18. SteveZim1017 says:

    always always talk to a neighbor or 2 before buying a house. you get alot more dirt about the place. especially if the neighbor wasn’t particularly fond of the previous owner.

    • Ihaveasmartpuppy says:

      Not necessarily true. We have a nasty hoarder next door, and if he had a possible sale to a nice neat appearing person(s) I may be tempted to say anything to get them living there.

  19. mac-phisto says:

    that’s a sad story, but it’s not surprising. fwiw, don’t be too reliant on any type of disclosure forms thrown in front of you as part of a home purchase. seller agents typically counsel their clients not to disclose anything that might impact a sale, so the status quo is to check “unknown” next to virtually everything. unless you can prove that the former owner did know about something & did not disclose it, there’s little chance for recourse post-sale.

    also, when you contract a home inspector, make sure that everything you want inspected is listed in the contract. their guarantee does not extend beyond this. this list can help set your expectations for a home inspector – http://www.nachi.org/sop.htm . if you want them to extend their inspection (for example, if you want them to inspect appliances), negotiate this beforehand, determine if/how their guarantee covers the extra inspection work & make sure it’s notated on the contract.

    • Me - now with more humidity says:

      Wrong. If you don’t disclose a known condition, you can be sued. And legitimate Realtors are do not to recommend that a seller commit fraud — because that makes them liable, too.

      One of my favorite solutions if a seller I’m buying from balks at repairing something is to send them a copy of the inspection report. Then I remind them that they now know every defect the property has and will have to disclose it to any future prospects if I decide to walk (as I can according to the way I drew up the contract). Amazing how often that gets the repairs made at their expense.

      • mac-phisto says:

        it’s not fraud. it’s a legal concept known as willful ignorance. it works because home disclosure forms do not require a seller to actually test for or abate hazards – they simply must disclose if they know of any such hazard.

        for example, let’s take lead paint. lead paint was used in virtually every home constructed in this country up until 1978 (companies began phasing out lead paint in the 50’s, but it remained in many popular colors – like bright white – until it was banned in 1978). so, it’s safe to assume that if you are buying a home built before 1978, it has lead paint. but a seller doesn’t have to disclose this UNLESS they have tested for it and/or abated it.

        & the same goes with asbestos. or mold. or radon. if you don’t test for it & you don’t abate it, you don’t know of a hazard & you cannot be held liable for its existence.

        disclosures vary from state to state, but in my state (CT), there’s the notorious “unknown” column ( pdf copy of form here). i have literally seen these forms checked start to finish w/ UNK. fraudulent? only if you can prove it.

        providing the inspection report to the seller is interesting, but i fail to see how it works. in my state, only the purchaser has recourse under the uniform property condition disclosure act – a prospective buyer has lost nothing & therefore cannot recoup anything.

        you do bring up a good point about contracts, though. make sure you have contingency clauses written into your offer – the most common are for financing, inspection, attorney review & code compliance.

        • AustinTXProgrammer says:

          When I was selling a house and the first buyers financing fell through, I put made the inspection report available to the next buyer with my disclosure. That way they couldn’t claim they didn’t know about any listed defects and I knew they wanted the house.

          Unfortunately the gas line to the furnace started leaking before they closed, and that turned out to be an expensive repair (the furnace had to be removed to gain access). I couldn’t get out of that one.

  20. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    Home inspectors have no liability?

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      I don’t know , do home inspectors check air quality?

      And shouldn’t the government have cleaned up a known hazard site?

      • JiminyChristmas says:

        No they don’t. Assessing something like chemical contamination is way, way out of the scope and expertise of what a home inspector is responsible for. Generally speaking, home inspectors inspect things by looking around. It’s a visual inspection. Beyond simple things like making sure plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems work, if they can’t see it or touch it, it won’t be in the inspection report.

  21. Hoot says:

    How are these warning signs except for the neighbors? Home buyers don’t usually sit in front of the house analyzing the habits of previous occupants, do they? And I’m sure this wasn’t happening while the house was being shown to buyers.

    Moral of the story: ask the neighbors about the history of the house?

  22. Donathius says:

    Wait…not getting a newspaper is a reason to suspect that a house is a meth lab?

  23. NumberSix says:

    I’m not sure you can count “no newspaper delivery”. That just means they have internet access.

  24. rpm773 says:

    It took a few months, but we eventually turned our meth house into a meth home.

  25. CrankyOwl says:

    The fact that the previous home owner’s name was Walter White didn’t tip them off?

  26. u1itn0w2day says:

    Some of those sign/symptoms of a meth house don’t always apply or there is no way for you to find out as a buyer, neighbor or renter.

    How is a neighbor supposed to find out if a tenant neighbor is paying in cash.

    Must admit though we’ve had a neighboring house unoccuppied for over 4 years at this point with buyer frequently ‘arriving late at night/after dark. They also have all the windows blocked/covered day in day out-even when there. Everyone says don’t worry they probably just like their privacy and many don’t care if they can see outside.

  27. u1itn0w2day says:

    This is one reason I clean even a storage unit before I move in.

    If this house has ac/heater ducts I would have them cleaned and use hepa filters for awhile. I would also wipe EVERY surface down, vacum every carpet crevice crack and/or hole, sweep every floor and wipe everything down again(second wipe with warm water/damp cloths only), including the walls. I would probably repaint the walls with somekind of odor killing primer/sealer.

    In other words it might pay to buy paint, lots of cleaning supplies, a seperate electric air filter or two, a good shop vac with filters and rent a storage unit to use while they are cleaning the house and letting it air out. I think the biggest expense would be having the ac/heating ducts cleaned out. I think that’s cheaper than 25K.

  28. christoj8799 says:

    You can write historic for any part of Bristol, I was surprised this wasn’t in Bloomsdale, but this isn’t necessarily a “nice” and “historic” area and I’m not surprised someone was using the place as a cook house. If the place was near the bottom of Radcliffe I might be surprised.

  29. sweetgreenthing says:

    This just makes me wish Breaking Bad would come back sooner.
    Thank goodness I actually was a methhead briefly as a teenager- I can sniff that crap out a mile away. The only good thing to come out of that situation, I guess.
    Clean everything, change the filters, repaint and replace all the carpeting, and then air the house out with fans and open windows for as long as you can stand it.
    I’d be a little concerned about the soil quality if there’s a backyard, too. Dumping waste back there would really have an impact, but I’m not sure what you could actually do about it.

  30. brainmydamage says:

    The law might not require disclosure of whether the house was used as a drug facility, but 68 Pa.C.S.A. § 7304 Subsection B lists the following as mandatory disclosures by the seller:

    (14) Presence of hazardous substances.
    (16) Legal issues affecting title or that would interfere with use and enjoyment of the property.

    Reference: http://realestate.uslegal.com/sellers-disclosure/pennsylvania-sellers-disclosure-law/

    Disclaimer: IANAL.

  31. Garbanzo says:

    One of the houses we looked at when we were house shopping we suspected of being a meth house. The homeowner had dug a 9-foot-deep pit under the house “for unknown reasons” (in the words of the structural engineers’ report), compromising the integrity of the foundation. The estimated cost for repair was $100,000.

  32. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    I’d find out how to do this $25,000 cleaning and get started doing it myself with the needed protective gear.

  33. markincleveland says:

    Did the sellers Realtor know there had been a problem. if so there could be recourse

  34. sonnetfm says:

    * Persons exiting the structure to smoke

    Seriously? So being a smoker who doesn’t smoke inside your home is now a sign you’re cooking meth? Good to know.

  35. evelynsixteen says:

    we had a meth house directly next door to my home for three years, and one directly across the street for almost five.
    the smell of meth is permanently etched into my head. it doesn’t smell like cat pee, it smells like three hundred bottles of windex all being lit on fire at the same time. it is NOT a friendly smell. i’d glady take the smell of cat pee. gladly.
    you don’t see their garbage, they dump it in big black garbage bags in front of all the other houses on the street, in the alley way, in someone else’s backyard…
    how about the fact that they’d lock their kids/dogs outside for DAYS on end?

    that’s a pretty sad list.

  36. Jane_Gage says:

    They should just lick the walls until they don’t care anymore.

  37. FrankReality says:

    “In PA, there’s no law requiring the seller to disclose that the property used to be a drug facility.”

    Maybe not, but there are laws in most states requiring that the seller disclose any known, but hidden defect that could materially effect value. Being a former meth lab would fall under this material defect business. In many states, if the listing agent knew and failed to disclose the defect, they could lose their RE license.

    I didn’t read their blog, but I sure hope they consulted with an attorney to assess the advisability of a civil suit against the seller and the listing agent, and are pursuing compliants with the appropriate licensing boards.